Sermon 138. Prayer-the Forerunner of Mercy
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, June 28, 1857, by the
REV. C.H. SPURGEON
at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.
"Thus saith the Lord God; I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them; I will increase themwith men like a flock."-Ezekiel 36:37.
IN reading the chapter we have seen the great and exceeding precious promises which God had made to the favored nation ofIsrael. God in this verse declares, that though the promise was made, and though he would fulfill it, yet he would not fulfillit until his people asked him so to do. He would give them a spirit of prayer, by which they should cry earnestly for theblessing, and then when they should have cried aloud unto the living God, he would be pleased to answerthem from heaven, his dwelling-place. The word used here to express the idea of prayer is a suggestive one. "I will yetfor this be enquired of by the house of Israel." Prayer, then, is an enquiry. No man can pray aright, unless he views prayer in that light. First,I enquire what the promise is. I turn to my Bible and I seek to find the promise whereby the thing which I desire to seekis certified to me as being a thing which God is willing to give. Having enquired so far as that, Itake that promise, and on my bended knees I enquire of God whether he will fulfill his own promise. I take to him hisown word of covenant, and I say to him, "O Lord, wilt thou not fulfill it, and wilt thou not fulfill it now?" So that there, again, prayer is enquiry. After prayer I look out for the answer; I expect to be heard, and if I am not answeredI pray again, and my repeated prayers are but fresh enquiries. I expect the blessing to arrive; I go and enquire whether thereis anytidings of its coming. I ask; and thus I say "Wilt thou answer me, O Lord? Wilt thou keep thy promise? Or wilt thou shutup thine ear, because I misunderstand my own wants and mistake thy promise." Brethren, we must use enquiry in prayer, andregard prayer as being, first, an enquiry for the promise, and shell on the strength of that promise an enquiry for the fulfillment. We expect something to come as a present from a friend: we first have the note, whereby we are informed it isupon the road. We enquire as to what the present is by the reading of the note, and then, if it arrive not, we call atthe accustomed place where the parcel ought to have been left, and we ask or enquire for such and such a thing. We have enquiredabout the promise, and then we go and enquire again, until we get an answer that the promised gift has arrived and is ours.So with prayer. We get the promise by enquiry, and we get the fulfillment of it by again enquiring at God's hands.
Now, this morning I shall try, as God shall help me, first to speak of prayer as the prelude of blessing: next I shall try to show why prayer is thus constituted by God the forerunner of his mercies, and then I shall close by an exhortation, as earnest as I can make it, exhorting you to pray, if you would obtain blessings.
I. Prayer is the FORERUNNER OF MERCIES. Many despise prayer: they despise it, because they do not understand it. He who knowethhow to use that sacred art of prayer will obtain so much thereby, that from its very profitableness he will be led to speak of it with the highest reverence.
Prayer, we assert, is the prelude of all mercies. We bid you turn back to sacred history, and you will find that never dida great mercy come to this world, unheralded by prayer. The promise comes alone, with no preventing merit to precede it, butthe blessing promised always follows its herald, prayer. You shall note that all the wonders that God did in the old timeswere first of all sought at his hands by the earnest prayers of his believing people. But the otherSabbath we beheld Pharaoh cast into the depths of the Red Sea, and all his hosts "still as a stone" in the depths of thewaters. Was there a prayer that preceded that magnificent overthrow of the Lord's enemies? Turn ye to the Book of Exodus,and ye will read, "The children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto Godby reason of the bondage." And mark ye not, that just before the sea parted and made a highway for the Lord's people throughitsbosom, Moses had prayed unto the Lord, and cried earnestly unto him, so that Jehovah said, "Why criest thou unto me?"A few Sabbaths ago, when we preached on the subject of the rain which came down from heaven in the days of Elijah, you willremember how we pictured the land of Judea as an arid wilderness, a mass of dust, destitute of all vegetation. Rain had notfallen for three years; the pastures were dried up; the brooks had ceased to flow; poverty and distress stared the nationin theface. At an appointed season a sound was heard of abundance of rain, and the torrents poured from the skies, until theearth was deluged with the happy floods. Do you ask me, whether prayer was the prelude to that? I point you to the top ofCarmel. Behold a man kneeling before his God, crying, "O my God! send the rain;" lo! the majesty of his faith-he sends hisservant Gehazi to look seven times for the clouds, because he believes that they will come, in answer to his prayer. And markthe fact,the torrents of rain were the offspring of Elijah's faith and prayer. Wherever in Holy Writ you shall find the blessingyou shall find the prayer that went before it. Our Lord Jesus Christ was the greatest blessing that men ever had. He was God'sbest boon to a sorrowing world. And did prayer precede Christ's advent? Was there any prayer which went before the comingof the Lord, when he appeared in the temple? Oh yes, the prayers of saints for many ages had followed each other. Abrahamsaw hisday, and when he died Isaac took up the note, and when Isaac slept with his fathers, Jacob and the patriarchs still continuedto prey; yea, and in the very days of Christ, prayer was still made for him continually: Anna the prophetess, and the venerableSimeon, still looked for the coming of Christ; and day by day they prayed and interceded with God, that he would suddenlycome to his temple.
Ay, and mark you, as it has been in Sacred Writ, so it shall be with regard to greater things that are yet to happen in thefulfillment of promise. I believe that the Lord Jesus Christ will one day come in the clouds of heaven. It is my firm belief,in common with all who read the Sacred Scriptures aright, that the day is approaching when the Lord Jesus shall stand a secondtime upon the earth, when he shall reign with illimitable sway over all the habitable parts of theglobe, when kings shall bow before him, and queens shall be nursing mothers of his Church, But when shall that time come?We shall know its coming by its prelude when prayer shall become more loud and strong, when supplication shall become moreuniversal and more incessant, then even as when the tree putteth forth her first green leaves we expect that the spring approacheth,even so when prayer shall become more hearty and earnest, we may open our eyes, for the day of our redemption drawethnigh. Great prayer is the preface of great mercy, and in proportion to our prayer is the blessing that we may expect.
It has been so in the history of the modern Church. Whenever she has been roused to pray, it is then that God has awaked to her help. Jerusalem, when thou hast shaken thyselffrom the dust, thy Lord hath taken his sword from the scabbard. When thou hast suffered thy hands to hang down, and thy kneesto become feeble, he has left thee to become scattered by thine enemies; thou hast become barren and thy children have beencut off, but when thou hast learned to cry,when thou hast begun to pray, God hath restored unto thee the joy of his salvation, he hath gladdened thine heart, andmultiplied thy children. The history of the Church up to this age has been a series of waves, a succession of ebbs and flows.A strong wave of religious prosperity has washed over the sands of sin, again it has receded, and immorality has reigned.Ye shall read in English history: it has been the same. Did the righteous prosper in the days of Edward VI? They shall againbetormented under a bloody Mary. Did Puritanism become omnipotent over the land, did the glorious Cromwell reign, and didthe saints triumph? Charles the second's debaucheries and wickedness became the black receding wave. Again, Whitfield andWesley poured throughout the nation a mighty wave of religion, which like a torrent drove everything before it. Again it receded,and there came the days of Payne, and of men full of infidelity and wickedness. Again there came a strong impulse, and againGod glorified himself. And up to this date, again, there has been a decline. Religion, though more fashionable than itonce was, has lost much of its vitality and power, much of the zeal and earnestness of the ancient preachers has departed,and the wave has receded again. But, blessed be God, flood tide has again set in: once more God hath aroused his Church. Wehave seen in these days what our fathers never hoped to see: we have seen the great men of a Church, not too noted for itsactivity,at last coming forth-and God be with them in their coming forth! They have come forth to preach unto the people the unsearchableriches of God. I do hope we may have another great wave of religion rolling in upon us. Shall I tell you what I conceive tobe the moon that influences these waves? My brethren, even as the moon influences the tides of the sea, even so doth prayer,(which is the reflection of the sunlight of heaven, and is God's moon in the sky,) influence the tides of godliness; forwhen our prayers become like the crescent moon, and when we stand not in conjunction with the sun, then there is but ashallow tide of godliness, but when the full orb shines upon the earth, and when God Almighty makes the prayers of his peoplefull of joy and gladness, it is then that the sea of grace returneth to its strength. In proportion to the prayerfulness ofthe Church shall be its present success, though its ultimate success is beyond the reach of hazard.
And now again, to come nearer home: this truth is true of each of you my dearly beloved in the Lord in your own personal experience. God has given you many an unsolicited favor, but still great prayer has always been the great prelude of great mercy withyou. When you first found peace through the blood of the cross you had been praying much beforehand, and earnestly intercedingwith God that he would remove your doubts, and deliver you from your distresses. Yourassurance was the result of prayer. And when at any time you have had high and rapturous joys, you have been obliged tolook upon them as answers to your prayers, when you have had great deliverances out of sore troubles, and mighty helps ingreat dangers, you have been able to say, "I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me out of all my fears."Prayer, we say, in your case, as well as in the case of the Church at large, is always the preface to blessing.
And now some will say to me, "In what way do you regard prayer, then, as affecting the blessing? God, the Holy Ghost vouchsafesprayer before the blessing; but in what way is prayer connected with the blessing?" I reply, prayer goes before the blessingin several senses. It goes before the blessing, as the blessing's shadow. When the sunlight of God's mercy rises upon our necessities, it casts the shadow of prayer far down upon the plain, or, touse anotherillustration, when God piles up a hill of mercies, he himself shines behind them, and he casts on our spirits the shadowof prayer, so that we may rest certain, if we are in prayer, our prayers are the shadows of mercy. Prayer is the rustlingof the wings of the angels that are on their way bringing us the boons of heaven. Have you heard prayer in your heart? Youshall see the angel in your house. When the chariots that bring us blessings do rumble, their wheels do sound with prayer.We hearthe prayer in our own spirits, and that prayer becomes the token of the coming blessings. Even as the cloud foreshadowethrain, so prayer foreshadoweth the blessing; even as the green blade is the beginning of the harvest, so is prayer the prophecyof the blessing that is about to come.
Again: prayer goes before mercy, as the representative of it. Often times the king, in his progress through his realms, sends one before him, who blows a trumpet; and when the peoplesee him they know that the king cometh, because the trumpeter is there. But, perhaps, there is before him a more importantpersonage, who says, "I am sent before the king to prepare for his reception, and I am this day to receive aught that youhave to send the king, for I am hisrepresentative." So prayer is the representative of the blessing before the blessing comes. The prayer comes, and whenI see the prayer, I say, "Prayer, thou art the vice-regent of the blessing, if the blessing he the king, thou art the regent.I know and look upon thee as being the representative of the blessing I am about to receive."
But I do think also that sometimes, and generally, prayer goes before the blessing, even as the cause goes before the effect. Some people say, when they get anything, that they get it because they prayed for it, but if they are people who are notspiritually minded, and who have no faith, let them know, that whatever they may get it is not in answer to prayer, for weknow that God heareth not sinners, and the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord.""Well," says one, "I asked God for such-and-such a thing the other day. I know I am no Christian, but I got it. Don'tyou consider that I had it through my prayers?" No, sir, no more than I believe the reasoning of the old man who affirmedthat the Goodwin Sands had been caused by the building of Tenterden steeple, for the sands had not been there before, andthe sea did not come up till it was built, and therefore, said he, the steeple must have caused the flood. Now, your prayershave no moreconnection with your blessing than the sea with the steeple, in the Christian's case it is far different. Oft-times theblessing is actually brought down from heaven by the prayer. An objector may reply, "I believe that prayer may have much influenceon yourself, sir, but I do not believe that it has any effect on the Divine Being." Well, sir, I shall not try to convinceyou; because it is useless for me to try to convince you of that, unless you believe the testimonies I bring, as it wouldbeto convince you of any historical fact by simply reasoning about it. I could bring out of this congregation not one, nortwenty, but many hundreds, who are rational, intelligent persons, and who would, each of them, most positively declare, thatsome hundreds of times in their lives they have been led to seek most earnestly deliverance out of trouble, or help in adversity,and they have received the answers to their prayers in so marvellous a manner that they themselves did no more doubt theirbeing answers to their cries than they could doubt the existence of a God. They felt sure that he heard them; they werecertain of it. Oh! the testimonies to the power of prayer are so numberless, that the man who rejects them flies in the faceof good testimonies. We are not all enthusiasts; some of us are cool blooded enough, we are not all fanatics; we are not allquite wild in our piety, some of us in other things, we reckon, act in a tolerably common sense way. But yet we all agreeinthis, that our prayers have been heard; and we could tell many stories of our prayers, still fresh upon our memories,where we have cried unto God, and he has heard us. But the man, who says he does not believe God hears prayer, knows he does.I have no respect to his scepticism, any more than I have any respect to a man's doubt about the existence of a God. The mandoes not doubt it; he has to choke his own conscience before he dares to say he does. It is complimenting him too much toarguewith him. Will you argue with a liar? He affirms a lie, and knows it is so. Will you condescend to argue with him, toprove that he is untrue! The man is incapable of reasoning; he is beyond the pale of those who ought to be treated as respectablepersons. If a man rejects the existence of a God, he does it desperately against his own conscience, and if he is bad enoughto stifle his own conscience so much as to believe that, or pretend that he believes it, we think we shall demean ourselvesifwe argue with so loose a character. He must be solemnly warned, for reason is thrown away upon deliberate liars. But youknow, sir, God hears prayer; because if you do not, either way you must be a fool. You are a fool for not believing so, anda worse fool for praying yourself; when you do not believe he hears you. "But I do not pray sir." Do not pray? Did I not heara whisper from your nurse when you were sick? She said you were a wonderful saint when you had the fever. You do not pray!No,but when things lo not go quite well in business you would to God that they would go better, and you do sometimes cryout to him a kind of prayer which he cannot accept, but which is still enough to show that there is an instinct in man thatteaches him to pray, I believe that even as birds build their nests without any teaching, so men use prayer in the form ofit (I do not mean spiritual prayer): I say, men use prayer from the very instinct of nature. There is something in man whichmakes hima praying animal. He cannot help it; he is obliged to do it. He laughs at himself when he is on the dry land; but he prayswhen he is on the sea and in a storm, he seeks at prayer when he is well, but when he is sick he prays as fast as anybody.He-he would not pray when he is rich; but when he is poor, he prays then strongly enough. He knows God hears prayer, and heknows that men should pray. There is no disputing with him. If he dares to deny his own conscience he is incapable of reasoning,he is beyond the pale of morality, and therefore we dare not try to influence him by reasoning. Other means we may andhope we shall use with him, but not that which compliments him by allowing him to answer. O saints of God! whatever ye cangive up, ye can never give up this truth, that God heareth prayer; for if ye did disbelieve it to-day, ye would have to believeit again to-morrow; for ye would have such another proof of it through some other trouble that would roll over your head thatyewould be obliged to feel, if ye were not obliged to say, "Verily, God heareth and answereth prayer."
Prayer, then, is the prelude of mercy, for very often it is the cause of the blessing; that is to say, it is a part cause;the mercy of God being the great first cause, prayer is often the secondary agency whereby the blessing is brought down.
II. And now I am going to try to show you, in the second place, WHY IT IS THAT GOD IS PLEASED TO MAKE PRAYER THE TRUMPETEROF MERCY, OR THE FORERUNNER OF IT.
1. I think it is, in the first place, because God loves that man should have some reason for having a connexion with him. Saith God, "My creatures will shun me, even my own people will too little seek me-they will flee from me, instead of comingto me. What shall I do? I intend to bless them: shall I lay the blessings at their doors so that when they open them in themorning they may find them there, unasked and unsought?" "Yes," saith God, "many mercies I will sodo with; I will give them much that they need, without their seeking for it, but in order that they may not wholly forgetme, there are some mercies that I will not put at their doors but I will make them come to my house after them. I love mychildren to visit me," says the heavenly Father; "I love to see them in my courts, I delight to hear their voices and to seetheir faces; they will not come to see me if I give them all they want; I will keep them sometimes without, and then theywillcome to me and ask, and I shall have the pleasure of seeing them, and they will have the profit of entering into fellowshipwith me." It is as if some father should say to his son who is entirely dependent upon him, "I might give you a fortune atonce, so that you might never have to come upon me again; but, my son, it delights me, it affords me pleasure to supply yourwants. I like to know what it is you require, that I may oftentimes have to give you, and so may frequently see your face.NowI shall give you only enough to serve you for such a time, and if you want to have anything you must come to my housefor it. O, my son, I do this because I desire to see thee often; I desire often to have opportunities of showing how muchI love thee." So doth God say to his children, "I do not give you all at once; I give all to you in the promise, but if youwant to have it in the detail, you must come to me to ask me for it: so shall you see my face, and so shall you have a reasonfor oftencoming to my feet."
2. But there is another reason. God would make prayer the preface to mercy, because often prayer itself gives the mercy. You are full of fear and sorrow, you want comfort, God says, pray, and you shall get it; and the reason is because prayer is of itself a comforting exercise. We are all aware,that when we have any heavy news upon our minds, it often relieves us if we can tell a friend about it. Now there are sometroubles we would not tell to others, forperhaps many minds could not sympathize with us: God has therefore provided prayer, as a channel for the flow of grief."Come," saith he, "thy troubles may find vent here; come, put them into my ear; pour out thine heart before me, and so wiltthou prevent its bursting. If thou must weep, come and weep at my mercy-seat; if thou must cry come and cry in the closet,and I will hear thee." And how often have you and I tried that! We have been on our knees overwhelmed with sorrow, and wehave risenup, and said, "Ah! I can meet it all now!"
"Now I can say my God is mine
Now I can all my joys resign,
Can tread the world beneath my feet,
And all that earth calls good or great."
Prayer itself sometimes gives the mercy.
Take another case. You are in difficulty, you don't know which way to go, nor how to act. God has said that he will direct his people. You go forth in prayer and pray to God to direct you. Are you aware that your very prayer will frequently ofitself furnish you with the answer? For while the mind is absorbed in thinking over the matter, and in praying concerningthe matter, it is just in the likeliest state to suggest to itself the course which is proper, forwhilst in prayer I am spreading all the circumstances before God, I am like a warrior surveying the battle-field, andwhen I rise I know the state of affairs, and know how to act. Often, thus, you see, prayer gives the very thing we ask forin itself. Often when I have had a passage of Scripture that I cannot understand, am I in the habit of spreading the Biblebefore me, and if I have looked at all the commentators, and they do not seem to agree, I have spread the Bible on my chair,kneeleddown, put my finger upon the passage, and sought of God instruction. I have thought that when I have risen from my kneesI understood it far better than before; I believe that the very exercise of prayer did of itself bring the answer, to a greatdegree, for the mind being occupied upon it, and the heart being exercised with it, the whole man was in the most excellentposition for truly understanding it. John Bunyan says, "The truths that I know best I have learned on my knees;" and saysheagain, "I never know a thing well till it is burned into my heart by prayer." Now that is in a great measure through theagency of God's Holy Spirit; but I think that it may in some measure also be accounted for by the fact that prayer exercisesthe mind upon the thing, and then the mind is led by an insensible process to lay hold upon the right result. Prayer, thenis a suitable prelude to the blessing, because often it carrieth the blessing in itself.
3. But again it seemeth but right, and just, and appropriate, that prayer should go before the blessing, because in prayer there is a sense of need. I cannot as a man distribute assistance to those who do not represent their case to me as being destitute and sick. I cannotsuppose that the physician will trouble himself to leave his own house to go into the house of one that is ill, unless theneed has been specified to him, and unless he has been informed that thecase requires his assistance; nor can we expect of God, that he will wait upon his own people, unless his own people shouldfirst state their need to him, shall feel their need, and come before him crying for a blessing. A sense of need is a divinegift; prayer fosters it, and is therefore highly beneficial.
4. And yet again, prayer before the blessing serves to show us the value of it. If we had the blessings without asking for them, we should think them common things; but prayer makes the common pebblesof God's temporal bounties more precious then diamonds; and in spiritual prayer, cuts the diamond, and makes it glisten more.The thing was precious, but I did not know its preciousness till I had sought for it, and sought it long. After a long chasethe hunter prizesthe animal because he has set his heart upon it and is determined to have it; and yet more truly, after a long hungerhe that eateth findeth more relish in his food. So prayer doth sweeten the mercy. Prayer teaches us its preciousness. It isthe reading over of the bill, the schedule, the account, before the estate and the properties are themselves transferred.We know the value of the purchase by reading over the will of it in prayer, and when we have groaned out our own expressionof itspeerless price, then it is that God bestows the benediction upon us. Prayer, therefore, goes before the blessing, becauseit shows us the value of it.
But doubtless even reason itself suggests that it is but natural that God, the all-good, should give his favors to those thatask. It seemeth but right that he should expect of us, that we should first ask at his hands, and then he will bestow. Itis goodness great enough that his hand is ready to open: surely it is but little that he should say to his people, "For thisthing will I be enquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them."
III. Let me close BY STIRRING YOU UP TO USE THE HOLY ART OF PRAYER AS A MEANS OF OBTAINING THE BLESSING. Do you demand ofme, and for what shall we pray? The answer is upon my tongue. Pray for yourselves, pray for your families, pray for the Churches, pray for the one great kingdom of our Lord on earth.
Pray for yourselves. Sure you will never lack some subject for intercession. So broad are your wants, so deep are your necessities, that untilyou are in heaven you will always find room for prayer. Dost thou need nothing? Then I fear thou dost not know thyself. Hastthou no mercy to ask of God? Then I fear thou hast never had mercies of him, and art yet "in the gall of bitterness and inthe bond of inquity." If thou be a child of God, thy wants will be as numerousas thy moments and thou wilt need to have as many prayers as there are hours. Pray that thou mayest be holy, humble, zealous,and patient; pray that thou mayest have communion with Christ, and enter into the banqueting-house of his love. Pray for thyself,that thou mayest be an example unto others, that thou mayest honor God here, and inherit his kingdom hereafter.
In the next place, pray for your families; for your children. If they be pious, you can still pray for them that their piety may be real, that they may be upheld intheir profession. And if they be ungodly, you have a whole fountain of arguments for prayer. So long as thou hast a childunpardoned, pray for it; so long as thou hast a child alive that is saved, pray for him, that he may be kept. Thou hast enoughreason to pray for those that have proceeded from thineown loins. But if thou hast no cause to do that, pray for thy servants. Wilt thou not stoop to that? Then surely thouhast not stooped to be saved; for he that is saved knoweth how to pray for all. Pray for thy servants, that they may serveGod, that their life in thine house may be of use to them. That is an ill house where the servants are unprayed for. I shouldnot like to be waited upon by one for whom I could not pray, Perhaps the day when this world shall perish will be the dayunbrightened by a prayer; and perhaps the day when a great misdeed was done by some man, was the day when his friendsleft off praying for him. Pray for your households.
And then pray for the Church. Let the minister have a place in your heart. Mention his name at your family altar, and in your closet. You expect him tocome before you day after day, to teach you the things of the kingdom, and exhort and stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance.If he be a true minister, there will be work to be done in this matter. He cannot write his sermon and read it to you; hedoes not believe Christ said, "Go and read the gospel toevery creature." Dost thou know the cares of a minister? Dost thou know the trouble he has with his own church-how theerring ones do grieve him, how even the right ones do vex his spirit by their infirmities-how, when the church is large, therewill always be some great trouble in the hearts of some of his people? And he is the reservoir of all: they come to him withall their grief; he is to "weep with them that weep." And in the pulpit what is his work? God is my witness, I scarcely everprepare for my pulpit with pleasure: study for the pulpit is to me the most irksome work in the world I have never comeinto this house that I know of with a smile upon mine heart; I may have sometimes gone out with one; but never have I hadone when I entered. Preach, preach, twice a day I can and will do, but still there is a travailing in preparation for it,and even the utterance is not always accompanied with joy and gladness, and God knoweth that if it were not for the good thatwe trustis to be accomplished by the preaching of the Word, it is no happiness to a man's life to be well known. It robs him ofall comfort to be from morning to night heated for labor, to have no rest for the sole of his foot or for his brain-to bea great religious hack-to bear every burden-to have people asking, as they do in the country, when they want to get into acart, "Will it hold it?"-never thinking whether the horse can drag it; to have them asking, "Will you preach at such a place?you arepreaching twice, couldn't you manage to get to such a place, and preach again?" Every one else has a constitution; theminister has none, until he kills himself and is condemned as imprudent. If you are determined to do your duty in that placeto which God has called you, you need the prayers of your people, that you may be able to do the work, and you will need theirabundant prayers that you may be sustained in it. I bless God that I have a valiant corps of men, who day without night besiegeGod's throne on my behalf. I would speak to you, my brethren and sisters, again, and beseech you, by our loving days thatare past, by all the hard fighting that we have had side by side with each other, not to cease to pray now. The time was whenin hours of trouble, you and I have bended our knees together in God's house and we have prayed to God that he would giveus a blessing. You remember how great and sore troubles did roll over our head-how men did ride over us. We went through fireandthrough water, and now God has brought us into a large place, and so multiplied us, let us not cease to pray. Let us stillcry out unto the living God, that he may give us a blesssing. Oh! may God help me, if you cease to pray for me! Let me knowthe day, and I must cease to preach. Let me know when you intend to cease your prayers, and I shall cry, "O my God, give methis day my tomb, and let me slumber in the dust."
And lastly, let me bid you pray for the church at large. This is a happy time we live in. A certain race of croaking souls, who are never pleased with anything, are always cryingout about the badness of the times. They cry, "Oh! for the good old times!" Why, these are the good old times, time neverwas so old as it is now. These are the best times. I do think that many an old puritan would jump out of his grave if he knewwhat was doing now. If they could have beentold of the great movement at Exeter Hall, there is many a man among them who once fought against the Church of England,who would lift his hand to heaven, and cry, "My God, I bless thee that I see such a day as this!" In these times there isa breaking down of many of the barriers. The bigots are afraid; they are crying out most desperately, because they think God'speople will soon love each other too well. They are afraid that the trade of persecution will soon be done with, if we begintobe more and more united. So they are making an outcry, and saying, "These are not good times." But true lovers of Godwill say they have not lived in better days than these; and they all hopefully look for greater things still. Unless you professorsof religion are eminently in earnest in prayer, you will disgrace yourselves by neglecting the finest opportunity that evermen had. I do think that your fathers who lived in days when great men were upon earth, who preached with much power-I dothink, if they had not prayed, they would have been as unfaithful as you will be. For now the good ship floats upon aflood tide: sleep now, and you will not cross the bar at the harbour's mouth. Never did the sun of prosperity seem to shinemuch more fully on the church during the last hundred years than now. Now is your time, neglect now to sow your seed in thisgood time of seed-sowing; neglect now to reap your harvest in these good days when it is ripe, and darker days may come, andthoseof peril, when God shall say, "Because they would not cry to me, when I stretched out my hands to bless them, thereforewill I put away my hand, and will no more bless them, until again they shall seek me."
And now to close. I have a young man here who has been lately converted. His parents cannot bear him; they entertain the strongestopposition to him, and they threaten him that if he does not leave off praying they will turn him out of doors. Young man!I have a little story to tell you. There was once a young man in your position: he had begun to pray, and his father knewit. He said to him, "John, you know I am an enemy to religion, and prayer is a thing that never shallbe offered in my house." Still the young man continued earnest in supplication. "Well," said the father one day, in ahot passion, "you must give up either God or me. I solemnly swear that you shall never darken the threshold of my door again,unless you decide that you will give up praying. I give you till to-morrow morning to choose. The night was spent in prayerby the young disciple. He rose in the morning, sad to be cast away by his friends, but resolute in spirit, that come whatmight hewould serve his God. The father abruptly accosted him-"Well, what is the answer?" "Father," he said, "I cannot violatemy conscience, I cannot forsake my God." "Leave immediately," said he. And the mother stood there; the father's hard spirithad made hers hard too and though she might have wept she concealed her tears. "Leave immediately" said he. Stepping outsidethe threshold the young man said, "I wish you would grant me one request before I go; and if you grant me that, I will nevertrouble you again." "Well," said the father, "you shall have anything you like, but mark me, you go after you have hadthat; you shall never have anything again." "It is," said the son, "that you and my mother would kneel down, and let me prayfor you before I go." Well, they could hardly object to it; the young man was on his knees in a moment, and began to praywith such unction and power, with such evident love to their souls, with such true and divine earnestness, that they bothfell flaton the ground, and when the son rose there they were; and the father said, "You need not go, John; come and stop, comeand stop;" and it was not long before not only he, but the whole of them began to pray and they were united to a ChristianChurch. So do not give way. Persevere kindly but firmly. It may be that God shall enable you not only to have your own soulssaved, but to be the means of bringing your persecuting parents to the foot of the cross. That such may be the case is ourearnestprayer.